Saving Catholic Education
Former LA mayor Richard Riordan calls for support for Catholic schools, which are closing in large numbers. As I've said many times before, it is absolutely insane for this country to allow this to happen – good schools, spending $5,000/child/year, closing while dropout factories right down the block, spending $15,000-$25,000/child/year, staying open (and in many cases having MORE money thrown at them…
Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Catholic Education Foundation announced a campaign to raise $100 million for Catholic schools in our area.
Catholic education in the United States is in dire straits. A report from Loyola Marymount University in June found that Catholic schools continue to close even though they graduate 98% of their high school students and send almost all of them onto college. In the early 1960s, the U.S. had over 13,000 Catholic schools with 5.5 million students. Today there are 6,900 schools with two million students. In the Los Angeles area, enrollment has fallen by 20% over the past 10 years, to 80,000 students from 100,000. This trend is due not to lack of demand, but to the inability of parents to pay tuition.
The urban poor are more desperate than ever for Catholic education. Urban public schools have failed these families, graduating approximately 30% of Los Angeles high school students in four years. Catholic schools are their best hope—something I know from personal experience.
…So why are Catholic schools the answer to our urban education woes? Aren't charter schools beginning to help this underserved population? Charter schools are an amazing development, and I've chaired the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools and the Inner City Education Foundation, both charter advocacy organizations. But not everyone will be able to attend charter schools because the capacity isn't there.
Charter schools are public schools that receive the same dollars as other public schools (in California, $7,500 per student). By contrast, Catholic schools rely on private contributions (averaging $4,000 per student) and tuition (averaging $2,500 per student) from some of our poorest families. In terms of graduation rates, only the very best charter schools in Los Angeles are on par with Catholic schools.
Catholic schools infuse beliefs, values and standards that children will carry all their lives. They provide a safe learning environment for those from high-crime neighborhoods as well as structure and a faith-based education. The schools create a sense of community and an expectation that every child will achieve his or her goals.
Many students in Catholic schools are not Catholic. As Catholic school teachers often say, "We provide this education not because the students are Catholic but because we are." Our faith calls us to it.
- SEPTEMBER 30, 2011